Club | 23/12/2021

From Ottawa to Müngersdorf

A special Christmas wish

“Üvverall jitt et Fan vum FC Kölle” is not in the FC Hymne without reason. Many fans stay true to 1. FC Köln despite the long distance to their footballing home. In the case of Karsten Gitter, it is almost 5,830 kilometres to Müngersdorf. The FC member lives in Canadian capital of Ottawa and neither the distance nor the pandemic would stop him from fulfilling his dream: visiting the RheinEnergieSTADION.

Traditionally, children spend their time leading up to Christmas writing their list for Santa Claus. However, adults also have their own wishes that they hope to have come true on the big day. FC fan Karsten Gitter only had one wish this year, albeit a big one. He wanted to make one of his dreams come true. He wanted to watch an FC game live in the RheinEnergieSTADION.

Karsten, born in Canada, moved to Germany when he was five. His father is German. „In the 1980s, when I was about 10, Klaus Fischer was my favourite player. Then I became an FC fan even though we lived in the Allgäu, which I like to call Bayern Munich country.“

Later on, his home address might have changed but his passion for FC remained. Back in Canada, he misses almost no FC game despite the six-hour time difference. Gitter was never in Köln. In January 2018, the FC fan explained that he was never in the RheinEnergieSTADION: “It is my life goal and is at the top of my bucket list,” said the 48-year-old. A dream that, three years later on the 19th December 2021, finally came true.

However, the journey of more than 5,000 kilometres isn’t an easy one. “It looks like that, after 48 years as an FC fan, that I will finally be able to make it to Köln as long as the pandemic allows it. My holidays as a teacher are unfortunately limited and, normally, they fall within the summer break.” This year, though, the teacher had luck on his side and the holidays start before Christmas and the last Bundesliga Matchday of the year.

Karsten Gitter is a teacher, who brings FC to his pupils in Canada with specific lessons. “There are actually a few kids in my class who don’t just know FC but follow the club intensively. It has got to the point now where the children now come in on Monday morning knowing how FC played at the weekend.” His passion for FC is obvious: “That’s my classroom, and here’s where the big FC flag hangs.” 

A flag, which Gitter wants to wave in the stadium one day. In November, he finally booked his flight on the last school day in Canada, 17th December. His plan is to drive straight from Ottawa to Montreal Airport as soon as the lesson finishes and fly to Frankfurt. From there, he will head to Köln with his father for the final home game of the year against VfB Stuttgart.

“Direct flights from Canada to Köln are hard to find and it wouldn’t have worked out to be here in time for kick-off at half five. But I managed to get a step ahead by flying out of Canada as soon as humanly possible.” Despite booking his flights, he still didn’t have any tickets for the game. In a bid to make that happen, three weeks prior, he set his alarm for four o’clock in the morning in order to not miss the member sale for the Stuttgart game. Gitter got the tickets for himself and his father.

Everything had gone to plan – until the latest Corona measures from the government meant that only 15,000 fans were able to attend the game. It looked like the chance had gone. Frantically, he sent an e-mail to FC: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me” that now threatened to come to nothing.

Everyone at Geißbockheim was touched by the story of the FC fan who had undertaken everything possible to try and make it to the game. For FC Managing Director, it was immediately clear that the fan’s dream had to come true and he would be invited to the match. So, on 17th December, Gitter boarded his flight from Montreal to Frankfurt and was picked up by his father. In Köln, there was even time for some sightseeing. “We visited the Dom, where at the Christmas market and obviously the FC fan shop.”

Gitter is excited ahead of the game: “No-one can imagine how much I’m looking forward to this game.” For the first time, the Canadian had to take a moment for himself before kick-off. “I’ve never seen the stadium in person before and as we made our way from the car park over to the ground, it was already dark and looked absolutely incredible. I had to stand there for a moment and take a few photos. The red and white pylons are very impressive.”

He has now arrived in the ground and is waiting on the next highlight: “My favourite moment of all was the Hymne before the game. It was amazing, I had goosebumps!” he said and filmed the moment on his phone to share the experience with his family and have the memory forever.

Like most FC fans, Gitter was off his feet to celebrate twice in the opening 10 minutes. “I had the first two goals on camera and I went mad,” said the 48-year-old. Unfortunately, neither goal counted. Fortunately, however, Anthony Modeste managed to score in the 88th minute and this one did count. “As Modeste scored at the end, the place was bouncing! In Canada, I’ve been to basketball and ice hockey games and the atmosphere there is good. But you can’t compare that to what the 15,000 fans here showed. They sing the whole time.”

The 1:0 win felt like an early Christmas present. “The entire effort and planned was worth it, 100%.” Alongside the memories and countless photos and videos, Karsten Gitter takes back plenty of Christmas gifts for his family. “I’ve got four scarves, one is for me, the second for my daughter, one will hang in my classroom and the fourth is a gift for another FC fan in Ottawa.” The pets have to be accounted for, too: “I think I bought half of the fanshop, including a bowl for my dog.”

Karsten Gitter’s Christmas wish had already came true before the big day. He already has an idea for what he wants next year, though. “My next goal is to be here when the place is full. I want to experience things when it is sold-out. That must be something else.”

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